Union minister MJ Akbar resigns

In a brief statement Akbar said he had decided to seek justice in a court of law in his personal capacity

In a brief statement Akbar said he had decided to seek justice in a court of law in his personal capacity

Up until now, 15 women, besides Priya Ramani, have accused Union Minister MJ Akbar of sexual harassment and in some cases, sexual assault. The minister was earlier defiant and ignored demands seeking his resignation.

Hours after returning from a trip to Africa, the Union minister issued a statement trashing the charges against him, saying accusations without evidence has become a "viral fever" among some sections and filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani.

One of them, Ghazala Wahab, editor of Force magazine, had worked for Akbar at the Asian Age newspaper between 1994 and 1997.

He said in a statement that since he had chose to challenge the "false accusations" against him in his "personal capacity", he felt it was appropriate to step down from office. His resignation comes two days after he filed a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani for accusing him of sexually harassing her during the days when he used to work with her as an editor.

"I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs", he said, adding that he is "deeply grateful" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for the "opportunity they gave me to serve my country". The resignation of M.J. Akbar is a result of these women journalists' courage to fight for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom, " the Guild said in a statement offering support to the women who had named him. She named Mr Akbar only in a tweet early this month. It was followed by the accounts of travails undergone by other women journalists, including Ghazala Wahab who accused him of molestation.

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Modi has remained silent as the accusations against Akbar have mounted, but the ruling Bharatiya Janata party's president, Amit Shah, and several female ministers have acknowledged the allegations and said they are being examined.

As many as 20 women came out with their stories of horror faced at the hands of the BJP leader.

On Sunday, Akbar rejected sexual harassment claims and said they were "false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice".

The #Me Too movement in India exploded after actress Tanushree Dutta spoke of harassment by actor Nana Patekar on the set of the film Horn OK Pleassss a decade ago.

"This was long overdue and it was important that Mr Akbar took moral responsibility for his actions and stepped down from his post". By speaking up, Ramani had "lifted the lid on the culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation" that Akbar engendered and presided over at the Asian Age, the statement said.

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